NDIANAPOLIS — Staring at the keys of the pale blue Coronet XL typewriter, it was easy to tumble into Kurt Vonnegut’s world.
A red rooster lamp provided soft light to write by. Jazz music — Vonnegut’s favorite genre — played over the stereo.
A mid-century modern chair was pulled up to the typewriter, sitting on a low-set coffee table. The model is the same exact kind Vonnegut used to write his most famous novels. Visitors are encouraged to channel their own Vonnegut and type a few lines on it.
The humor, pathos and legacy of one of Indianapolis’ most famous literary natives are preserved inside the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library. The library not only preserves Vonnegut’s work and artifacts from his past, but captures the tone the author soaked his entire life in.
“We want to create this experience for people, since Vonnegut was an author who created a lot of emotion for people,” said Chris Lafave, curator of the library. “He took things that were hard for people and managed to make them laugh.”
Though Vonnegut lived in New York City from 1970 until his death, he always felt a close connection to Indianapolis, Lafave said.
He was convinced the city helped make him who he was, saying during an interview in 1986, “All my jokes are Indianapolis. All my attitudes are Indianapolis. … What people like about me is Indianapolis.”
“He always talked about how his sensibility was profoundly Midwestern in some ways, cosmopolitan in other ways,” said William Rodney Allen, a founding member of the library’s board of directors. “Part of that is strength of Kurt Vonnegut’s appeal, to an intellectual audience and also to people who are not academics.”
In 2007, the city planned 12 months of activities for the “Year of Vonnegut.” Though the author died on April 11 of that year, book discussions, performances and art exhibitions honored him.
The impetus for the memorial library came from Julia Whitehead, its CEO and executive director. She had discovered a library dedicated to the works of Henry Miller and wondered why there wasn’t a similar space to memorialize Vonnegut.
Whitehead contacted Vonnegut’s son, Dr. Mark Vonnegut, who supported the idea of forming a memorial library. Other family members, including his sisters Edie and Nannette, also contributed to the effort.
In January 2011, the library opened in a small storefront in downtown Indianapolis.
Framed prints of his drawings and artwork adorn the walls. A bizarre sculpture of Vonnegut by Latvian artist Ivars Mikelsons is arranged in the corner.
Visitors are able to explore different aspects from Vonnegut’s life, looking at his family roots in Indiana all the way to his current impact.
His family came to Indianapolis from Germany in the 1850s, founding a hardware store that remained in business with the family for more than 100 years.
Mementos from that time, including a buckle and advertising tag, are displayed in a case.
Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library
What: A museum and lending library in honor of Indianapolis native Kurt Vonnegut.
Where: 340 N. Senate Ave., Indianapolis
Hours: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday; noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.